Imagine a world where we all found our hair to be “good” because we were all raised as children to embrace our own natural hair texture.

Although many of us grew up in a time when the internet wasn’t nearly as popular or accessible as it is now, the reality is that children are literally bombarded with images and ideas about body image and their hair on an hour by hour — shoot, moment by moment — basis. Some are positive reinforcement and yet a lot of them are about as close to toxic as you can get.

Even when I was a little girl, I remember putting a towel on my head to try and make myself look like I had longer hair. Make-believe can be fun; however, looking back, I know that a part of me thought that long straight hair was prettier than the (mostly”> Type 4a texture that I have. And I know I’m not alone in this.

That’s the bad news. The good news is there are things that you can do as a parent — or even a relative, close friend or mentor — to make sure that you still remain the greatest influencers in your children’s lives; this includes when it comes to their self-esteem. And one facet of their esteem is how they see their hair.

Here are valuable steps you can take to help the children in your life embrace and love their naturally curly hair. 

6 Ways to Teach Your Child to Embrace Their Own Hair Texture

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1. Find pictures of people who have a similar texture

A part of the reason why I was so caught up with wanting long straight hair when I was younger is because I went to mostly white private schools. It wasn’t that my parents didn’t praise my Blackness and all that came with it (most of the time, at least”>; it’s just that peer pressure is a real thing, even at a very young age. And to see all of those girls with long pigtails, I thought that was what my hair was supposed to be doing instead of being in braids or Afro-puffs. I remember how much Vanessa Huxtable (The Cosby Show“> influenced me as I started to grow older (especially the season when she had that dope Afro”>. I think that seeing more images of women and girls like her would’ve made me feel less alone. That said, one benefit of the internet is we have more access to photos and videos. So, show your kids people who have hair similar to them. It can help them to feel like there are others like them and that can help to boost their confidence.

Read next: 20 Books That Empower Girls to Love Their Curls

2. Talk to them about all of the benefits of their hair texture

Remember how I said that I used to wish that I had straighter hair while my goddaughter currently wants a thicker and curlier texture? The reality is that every single texture on this planet has some special things that it’s able to do. These days, you couldn’t pay me to switch my natural texture up because I like all of the creative things that I can do with it (braids one day, an Afro another day, a blow-out the next day”>. And my goddaughter? I mean, at her age (11″>, I used to wish that I was her (hair-wise”> because her loose waves made it appear that her hair grew faster than those of a curlier kind (not true; we just have to take care of our hair differently”>. Bottom line, there is such a thing as negativity bias. What it basically means is we’re naturally wired to lean toward the negative of matters rather than the positive. So, how do you get your child to see the good about their hair and hair texture? That’s where the next point comes in.

3. Create a “hair love list” with them

When it comes to self-love, it’s something that we have to literally program ourselves to do. That’s why I’m all about creating lists that include things that we adore, especially so, about ourselves. So, after completing some of these other steps, don’t hesitate to ask your child what they love about their hair texture. If they say the proverbial, “I dunno” followed by an Elmo shrug, help them along by expressing what you like about their hair and what other people would also probably like about it. Then compile the list and put it someplace where they will get to it on a daily basis (like a bedroom or bathroom mirror”>. A couple of times a week, ask them to verbally recite their list to you. The more they get used to hearing what they appreciate about their hair, the more it will literally become a part of their way of thinking.

4. Be intentional with products you use

I’d venture to say that just about all of us have some memories of dreading getting our hair done and it was usually because either A”> our parents were too heavy handed and/or B”> they didn’t apply the kind of products that complemented our own hair texture. Now, in fairness to them, they probably didn’t know much about which ones to use and which ones to avoid. These days, though, there is plenty of access to this kind of information, so devote an hour a week (or so”> to researching the kind of hair products that go with different hair types and how to apply them. My first suggestion would be to take our Texture Typing Quiz to learn more about your child’s hair type. Then you go on YouTube or TikTok and put “hair product hacks” based on the type of hair that your child has.

5. Load up on hair accessories

No matter what the age, hair is always more fun when we have accessories to play around with. That said — hats, scarves, barrettes, hair clips, headbands, hair ties and hair combs…start to see hair accessories as a must-have addition to your child’s wardrobe. The more items that they have to choose from and work with, the more they will look forward to getting their hair done or doing their own hair — regardless of what their hair texture may be.

6. Show them how to do their own hair

You won’t be doing their hair forever, so use each season (spring, summer, fall, winter”> as an opportunity to “loosen the reins” a bit by taking out an hour or so on a weekend to teach them more about personal hair maintenance. The reality is that a lot of us grew up to become super frustrated with our hair, even as adults, all because we had no clue how to style it. There’s no time like the present for your child to learn how to care for their tresses, so that their hair doesn’t end up “intimidating” them. Instead, it can be something that they truly and fully celebrate!

Shellie Reneé

Shellie Reneé has been writing full-time for two decades with bylines in everything from Honey, King and Sister 2 Sister (remember those?) to XONecole, Upscale, Little Things, Your Tango and Love, Live Health — just to name a few. Although most of her writing is relationships-related, she also enjoys writing on self-help, health and wellness and providing tips for women to celebrate the way they were born — both inside and out.

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